These three names are not mere letters combined into words on a page. These names are the names of my family – my wife and kids. Each name represents something to me – and your feelings will be different depending on whether you know us or not, or whether you know someone with one of those names. For me, I hear the name Lori, and I immediately think of my beautiful, loving, patient bride of nearly 17 years. You say the name Logan, and I’m not thinking Wolverine, I’m thinking about my soccer-loving, Lego-building, boy genius. I hear Kamryn, and I’m not thinking about Kam Chancellor, the great safety of the Seattle Seahawks, I’m thinking about my amazingly gifted, sweet, caring, intelligent, compassionate daughter.
The name of a person matters.
Think of your closest friend or family member’s name. You don’t just think about how it sounds or how it looks on the page, you think about the person that name represents.
While we can all agree that names are important, and that names carry weight and power, we can tend to slip into the dangerous waters of name-calling in a negative way. In the heat of the moment, we call someone a name, determined to hurt them and win the conflict. We most often regret it later, because we realize that we have crossed the line and hurt someone we care about.
One of the basic rules of “fighting fair” in relationships is that you NEVER call someone a name. You focus on the actions and feelings, but you never stoop to name calling. That’s because it takes the conflict and makes it personal. It reframes the issue as a referendum on the individual instead of the actual issue that caused the conflict.
Think about the last time you were called a name. For me it brings up some pretty negative memories.
Yet if you look on your news feed on Facebook, you will see people name-calling up one side and down the other. You see people writing hurtful, hateful things that they may not have had the guts to say to someone’s face, yet on the anonymous (not really) internet, the gloves come off and hurtful and hateful speech prevails.
I’m frankly embarrassed by what some of my social media friends write, while proclaiming to love God and love others, as Jesus has called us. People disparage entire ethnicities without a shred of guilt. Whole people groups are mocked because of their relationship decisions. Hateful words are spoken about genders different from our own. Entire religions are blamed for the world’s problems. Memes are created mocking the left, the right, and the center. “Jokes” are said that are best left unspoken. And people are hurt, offended, and disparaged.
It. Has. To. Stop.
But it just keeps getting worse. One appalling example is Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Agree or disagree with his policies, you have to acknowledge that he says some pretty rude things. Check out this list of people he has publicly called a loser, dummy, or worse. His words and name-calling would not be acceptable under normal circumstances, yet he still has a good shot at becoming our representative to the world. Is that really how we want our president to talk about other world leaders, politicians who disagree with him, journalists who cover the White House, and general citizens who ask him questions?
Friends, particularly friends who claim to follow Jesus, we have to do better. We can’t say on Sundays that we love Jesus, and then on Monday claim that Hispanics are a burden on our economy. We can’t preach the gospel of love, and then show hatred and speak evil of Muslims. We are called by God to love all people – even, and perhaps most importantly, those who are different from us.
I encourage you to read over your personal posts for the last month, and see if you’ve fallen victim to the name calling and slander that I’m talking about. If you have, delete the post and write something positive instead. None of us is perfect, but we have to try to be better. We have to allow God to transform us into the image of his Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.